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Student's Research Leads to National Honor

Project Presented at Global Gathering of Transportation Professionals

Jan. 23, 2014

Civil engineering major Sneha Upadhyaya was one of nine graduate students nationwide to present research at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting this month in Washington, D.C. The program was attended by more than 12,000 scholars 0from around the world.

Upadhyaya received a $5,500 award last year from the Dwight David Eisenhower Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Universities Fellowship Program for the transportation-related research she presented. The international graduate student from Nepal is investigating the modification of foundation soil, or subgrade soil, of roads and highways by using cement.

Working in the lab of Binod Tiwari, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, she also conducts National Science Foundation-funded research focused on reducing the shaking effects on buildings during an earthquake, when such structures are built on weak soil, such as soft clay.

Upadhyaya has co-authored four publications with Tiwari and won other awards, including the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Los Angeles Geo-Institute Chapter. Scheduled to graduate in May, she plans on pursuing a career teaching and conducting geotechnical engineering research.

What are the benefits of presenting at a national conference?

I'm very proud that my research was selected for presentation. It was exciting to attend the conference and share my work with a larger community of industry professionals. This was the first time I presented in front of such a big crowd, but my presentation went well, and I got a lot of good comments from audience members. Presenting not only boosted my confidence, but it also was a good networking experience, and will be helpful as I continue my studies in a Ph.D. program.

How has your research experience helped you achieve?

Working in research at CSUF has been a great experience for me. It's helped me gain a breadth of knowledge in geotechnical engineering and a deeper understanding of my major. It also has helped me develop leadership skills and mentorship qualities, which will help in advancing my career. Dr. Tiwari has been motivational, supportive and encouraging. Because of his guidance, I have had opportunities to present my research at local and national conferences.

What's the focus of your transportation research?

Most of the United States is underlain by problematic, expansive clay-type soils. Expansive soil causes huge damage to the roads, resulting in great economic losses each year. Additionally, seismic damage is a major concern in many parts of the country. One of the best techniques to address this problem is soil modification, using cement. My project is useful for transportation systems, such as bridge and roads.

What's been most exciting about your transportation research?

Cement has been found to be highly effective in stabilizing a wide variety of soils, including granular materials, silts and clays. Even a small quantity of cement, when mixed with soil, greatly improves the strength and durability properties. Besides roads and highways, this technique is highly applicable to airport runways and taxiways, parking lots, port facilities, truck terminals and the foundation of bridges.


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